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SC Features

Students Create Computer Games and Apps at Girls Go for IT Camp

Instructor Jaya Gantt, a recent graduate of USC, teaches 6th-grader Kenney Williams and other students at Girls Go for I.T. camp.
Laura Hunsberger
Instructor Jaya Gantt, a recent graduate of USC, teaches 6th-grader Kenney Williams and other students at Girls Go for I.T. camp.

During the last two weeks of June, the University of South Carolina's School of Earth, Ocean and Environment was home to Girls Go for I.T., a camp for middle school-age girls who are interested in learning about computer science and programming. South Carolina Public Radio's Laura Hunsberger and Clayton Sears went to USC's campus to see what the girls are creating and to talk with the professors who started the program, Dr. Alicia Wilson and Dr. Toni Willams.

“We’re making apps, last week we were making games, but this week we’re makings apps," says Kennedy, a rising sixth-grader. It’s her first year at Girls Go For IT. Kennedy and the girls are learning the basics of computer science, writing the code that makes games and apps work. Instructor Jaya Gantt, a recent graduate of USC, says the campers are doing real programming, using software created by MIT.  Girls Go for I.T. is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Women in I.T. Dr. Alicia Wilson, who started the camp, says one of the requirements for the program is to hire young women as teachers, so the girls can "see the path" to a career in tech.

Dr. Toni Williams co-founded the camp with Dr. Wilson, aiming to create an environment where girls can feel confident exploring what is still largely a male dominated field. In 2017, almost three quarters (74%)of the computing workforce was male. Dr. Williams says the camp aims break down other barriers as well: "Honestly, I love seeing girls of color in here, and I feel they are empowered."

While Dr. Wilson says she knows not all the campers will grow up and go into the I.T. field, they still benefit from the experience. Teaching the campers has also been a valuable experience for Camille McConathy, one of the programs "near peer" insructors, who believes programs like Girls Go For I.T. will make a difference in the future of computer programming. "You're making a difference for future generations of computer scientists," she says. "It's amazing."

The yearly Girls Go for I.T. Camp and its affiliate co-ed program Shandon Codes were held in June.